May 1, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Both the Dutch and Belgian defence ministries have recently launched a program which will lead to the upgrade of many of its remaining F-16AM/BM aircraft to an M5 software standard in the 2009-10 timeframe.
RNlAF F-16AM #J-020 from 313 sqn is posing in a fabulous nightly scene set up at Kabul IAP. Note the LANTIRN cover. [Photo by Joost de Raaf]
The M5/M5+ program will update the Mid-Life Update avionics system.
Now in its planning phase, the project is also expected to include some changes to hardware, primarily linked to improving its current self-protection capabilities.
As part of the MLU
M5, the EPAF
F-16s will also receive updates to the Stores Management System program which will allow them to handle multiple Smart Weapons on the wing stations.
Royal Netherlands Air Force
The modifications planned for by the Netherlands are expected to enable the Royal Netherlands Air Force's F-16s to continue operations until at least 2020, while development of the replacement Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter continues.
Current plans call for 72 of their 108 F-16s to be upgraded to the M5 configuration, with options to modify another 18 if needed. The aircraft's ALR-69 radar warning receivers will be upgraded, while its jamming capabilities will also be improved.
The latter enhancement will be achieved either by performing a mid-life update to the type's current ALQ-131 jammer, or by acquiring a replacement.